August 22, 2014
Bibliographic Information and Analysis of "The Beverly Hillbillies"
“The Beverly Hillbillies” made its appearance on television on September 26, 1962 and ran for nine seasons until March 23, 1971. It originally aired on Wednesday evenings from 9:00-9:30pm on CBS, the network that managed the distribution of the program. All 274 episodes were produced by Filmways Television, the film and television production company known for working on “The Addams Family,” “Cagney and Lacey,” and other rural comedies. This sitcom was created by Paul Henning, who later went on to create similar sitcoms such as “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction” due to “The Beverly Hillbillies” popularity. To the astonishment of many people, the show ranked #1 on the Nielsen rating for its first two seasons and only fell below the top 20 during the show’s final season. Despite its high ratings and popularity among the American public, CBS canceled “The Beverly Hillbillies” in order to stray away from the “rural” shows they broadcasted. Advertisers pushed CBS to broadcast more urban and modern shows since the rural-themed sitcoms received most of its viewership from rural areas, where people did not seem to buy the items being advertised during the shows. “The Beverly Hillbillies” was shot using a single camera setup and had two picture formats throughout the life of the show. The show was produced in black and white picture from 1962-1965 and was later produced in color from 1965-1971.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” is set around the Clampetts, an extremely poor country family who become instant millionaires and move to Beverly Hills after the patriarch of the family, Jed, strikes oil on his property while he was out hunting. This is highlighted in the show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” and during the opening of each episode. The Clampetts received $25 million from the OK Oil Company and were convinced by Jed’s cousin, Pearl, to move to Beverly Hills, California, the land of movie stars and millionaires. The central characters of the show include Jed Clampett, Granny, Elly May Clampett, Jethro Bodine, the Drysdales, and Jane Hathaway. Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen, is a mountaineer and widowed patriarch of the family. Jed is a well-mannered country man with the most common sense in the family. Despite having very little education, he always seems to be full of wisdom. Daisy May Moses better known as Granny is played by Irene Ryan. Granny, Jed’s mother-in-law, is a hot-headed Confederate who holds her country values very dear to her heart. She highlights the idea of simple living throughout the sitcom and is always seen wanting to return to the mountains. Elly May Clampett, played by Donna Douglas, is Jed’s beautiful, animal-loving daughter. She is very naïve and a big tomboy, always doing things that are seen by society to be meant for boys. Jethro Bodine, played by Max Baer, is Jed’s cousin’s son. He is a half-witted but happy young man who wants to fit in the Hollywood scene and is constantly chasing women. He is always praised by his family for attending Oxford and for being the person with the highest education (up to the sixth grade) in the family. The Drysdales, played by Raymond Bailey and Harriet E. MacGibbon, are the Clampett’s wealthy neighbors. Milburn Drysdale is the Clampett’s banker who is fond of the country family. He is a very greedy man who takes great lengths to make the Clampett family happy so that they stay in California and keep their large wealth in his bank. Mrs. Drysdale on the other hand does not like the Clampett family and would like to see them move. She is a very pretentious woman who has inherited her fortune. She is always on bad terms with Granny. Jane Hathaway is Milburn Drysdale’s loyal assistant. This character played by Nancy Kulp fancies Jethro and is always helping Mr. Drysdale or saving him from his outrageous schemes.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” with its low brow humor and entertainment incorporates a few different elements under the sitcom genre. This 1960’s hit displays elements of a folksy family sitcom mixed with those of a rural sitcom as it integrates the importance of family with the simple and traditional nature of country values. A typical episode brings the Clampetts in contact with some aspect of modern society and displays the comedy of their misunderstandings. The comedy sheds light on the virtues associated with rural simplicity and the deleterious nature of material success. The sitcom displays the different types of wealth and the differences among those who have earned or inherited their riches. “The Beverly Hillbillies” also highlights the differences among the hardworking, honest folk and those who cheat their way through life. This television show displayed the importance of simple living and the differences among the mindset and values of the country folk verses the city dwellers. Despite the fact that the Clampetts had attained this vast fortune they continued to work hard and did not lose sight of their values. Consequently, the other millionaires of Beverly Hills hired people to do their everyday work, such as gardeners, chauffeurs, maids, and chefs. Furthermore, “The Beverly Hillbillies” touches on subjects such as gender roles portrayed through the character of Elly May. Elly May is depicted as a tomboy doing all the things that males would normally do such as wrestling, driving motorcycles, wearing pants, hunting, and cutting wood. Throughout the series, Granny and Jed always try to get Elly May to act more like what society’s norm is for lady-like behavior and what females should be doing.
Overall “The Beverly Hillbillies” is a fun and humorous sitcom to watch. It can still be viewed under syndication.